Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE

From the U.S. Mint:

“Launched in 1999, the United States Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program was a 10-year initiative that honored each of the nation’s states in the order that they ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union. Each quarter was produced for about 10 weeks and will never be produced again. State designs are displayed on the reverse (tails) of the quarters, while the obverse design displays the familiar image of George Washington.”

4statequartersSo what’s the problem? Each state got their own quarter, as did the District of Columbia and each of the five U.S. Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa), for a total of 56 beautiful brand new quarters, celebrating the history and grandeur of the United States.

It’s not the fact that the states got the quarters that’s a problem. It’s what they collectively chose to put on the quarters that’s a problem. Many states chose to illustrate America’s noteworthy topological features such as the Great Lakes (Michigan), the Rocky Mountains (Colorado) and the 10,000 lakes (Minnesota). Some states chose to honor significant historical events such as the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana) or the journey westward by wagon train (Nebraska). Animals were a popular choice: Alaska appropriately chose the bear, Washington State the salmon, and Oklahoma their state bird, the scissortail flycatcher. The quarters are all unique and beautiful.

But here’s the rub. Ten states chose to honor specific individuals or events associated with individuals. Nine of those states honored men. Only one state honored a woman.

What men were honored? John Muir (California), Caesar Rodney (Delaware), King Kamehameha I (Hawaii), Abraham Lincoln (Illinois), Lewis and Clark (Missouri), George Washington Crossing the Delaware (New Jersey), the Wright Brothers’ first flight (North Carolina), the four presidents of Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), and Duke Ellington (Washington, D.C.). If you include Massachusetts’ quarter depicting a Minuteman and Wyoming’s quarter with a cowboy riding a bucking bronco, there are actually eleven quarters honoring men or featuring prominent male figures. Eleven.

Who was the lone woman honored in this sea of masculinity? Helen Keller, from the great state of Alabama. My hat is off to her.

The lack of women on our nation’s quarters is a serious issue. These quarters are not a relic from the past. They were minted between 1999 and 2009, and women still were not included. Out of the 112 images that comprise the fronts and backs of our nation’s quarters, there is only one picture of one woman.

Have we contributed nothing to our country? How did we become so invisible? What does this say to our sons and daughters about the status of women?

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4 Responses
  1. marille says:

    well Missouri need to include Sacagawea together with Lewis and Clark. there is year after year a native American dollar minted and not circled. you can buy it with a beautiful depiction of Sacagawea here:

    a similar situation in Germany. for the 900 birthday in 1998 of Hildegard von Bingen, (an abbess, female composer, writer with many insights way ahead of her time) a Hildegard 10 Euro coin was minted and not distributed.

  2. Richard says:

    There are definitely women from each state who could have been honored. The only way you could be sure of balance, male to female, is if approval of the designs rested with the Fed. If each state picked it’s own design, there was no control over the final “statistic.” That left the total assuredly skewed due to the male dominated history of our country.

  3. Nancywho says:

    There are plenty of women to honor. Let’s get a woman on the $20!

    Great for AL to honor Helen Keller yet again.

  4. Are the Wright Brothers the Right Choice for Ohio? : EVE | Equal Visibility Everywhere says:

    [...] series. The quarters from Ohio and North Carolina both honor the Wright Brothers. The quarter from only one state (Alabama) commemorates the achievements of a woman, that woman being Helen [...]